Politics & Government

It's unofficial: Obama also won North Carolina

Democrat Barack Obama is the unofficial winner in North Carolina, but the victory over Sen. John McCain won't be sealed until provisional ballots are counted and certified next month.

Unofficial returns show Obama ahead by 13,746 votes.

Trends over the last 14 years point to Obama having a wider lead after the provisionals are counted, said Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections.

"It widens the lead for the winner, no matter who that may be," Bartlett said.

His office will know Thursday how many provisional ballots the counties have. Usually, about 65 percent of the voters who cast provisional ballots were eligible.

The only way the apparent loser ends up winning is if an elections official inverted a number, or through some other error involving the count, Bartlett said.

"Our law allows us to say who the unofficial winner is," Bartlett said, "but you know we have a formal process in which we audit records."

The county canvasses are Nov. 14, and the state is scheduled to certify the results Dec. 1.